Owela - Open Web Lab - takes social media into usability research
The Open Web Lab, Owela has been designed for studying the acceptability of ideas, scenarios and prototypes in different stages of development cycle among the potential end-users with the help of social media. The Web Lab offers researchers, designers and users a new kind of an online meeting place fro communication and exchanging ideas. Anyone is invited to post their ideas for testing and further refinement by the online community at Owela.
In user-centred design, the first step is to identify the users and analyse
the environment. The first stages of an innovation process often receive too
little attention, in which case the customer's real needs may remain
unidentified. While traditional user research is time-consuming and often
cost-prohibitive, innovative solutions offer more cost-effective means for
conducting user research.
User research goes to where the users already are
Owela takes user research directly to the users, to the Web. The Lab's open, interactive product and service concept design builds on social media software and tools. Owela aims to serve as a flexible, versatile and innovative environment where new services can be created, developed further and tested.
For the visitor, Owela offers an opportunity to help blaze the trail for new technologies and contribute to the innovative development of future technological products and services. By participating in the development, visitors may gain access to better products and be among the first to see new services take shape. Owela also serves as a forum for like-minded people to get together online. Active visitors are rewarded on a regular basis.
New ideas of prototype testing
Businesses can use Owela as a versatile R&D tool. Users can participate in the design throughout the R&D process. Owela may help spark ideas for wholly novel concepts or emerging scenarios, while traditional testing on prototypes and finished products may also be carried out.
Rapid feedback and cost-effectiveness
From the businesses’ perspective, Owela offers the following advantages: rapid feedback from users, flexible and cost-efficient research, and better accessibility for different user and customer groups. Through Owela, the users, businesses and researchers may engage in continuous interaction. This is one of the purposes of Owela: to create genuine dialogue between businesses and their customers.
The beta version of Owela (in Finnish) is available at http://owela.vtt.fi/ . The further development of the Open Web Lab will strongly be influenced by ideas and opinions provided by the visitors.